HIAL Hits The Road
By Sharon Boehlefeld, Features Editor
February 13, 2020
ROCKFORD—Students from six Rockford Deanery Catholic schools attended the first regional Here I Am Lord vocations conference on Jan. 24.
Participants came from St. Rita (the host school), All Saints Academy and Holy Family schools in Rockford; St James in Belvidere; St. Bridget in Loves Park; and St. Peter in South Beloit.
The HIAL conferences have taken place at St. Patrick Parish in St. Charles since they began.
Remaining HIAL
regional sessions
Feb. 21: St. Joseph School, Elgin; guest speaker: John Grossman as "Ray, Portrait of a Homeless Man” (Full)
March 3: St. Mary School, Dixon
March 6: Holy Cross School, Batavia; guest speaker: John Grossman
“After 17 years of hosting the conference at St. Pat’s, we realized that the number of communities able to participate had diminished significantly for a variety of reasons,” said founding organizer Mike Zak, youth minister at the St. Charles parish. 
“Those communities with full time vocations directors were participating in more events across the country, some were focusing their outreach to those in college and others were seeing vocations directors also taking on other jobs such as teaching, social work, etc.,” Zak wrote in an email interview.
“Our first one at St. Rita went extremely well, and Brother Alan and Sister Belenda were extremely pleased with the new format, as were Pat Flannagan and Father Ervin (Caliente, pastor) from St Rita,” he said.
The program still gives young people a chance to pray together, hear inspirational talks about vocations and talk with priests, brothers and sisters.
“The purpose of switching to a regional format was to make it easier for schools to participate and limit their travel time,” Zak added.
After this year’s four spring conferences, Zak said, the HIAL team will evaluate the sessions and make plans for the future.